Continuing on with this theme of articles about the best materials for acoustic articles, this article will discuss the best wood for guitar necks.
In particular, of course, we are looking at acoustic guitar necks.
Why Care about the Wood of the Neck?
Whether you are interested in making your own guitar, having a guitar custom made for you or simply want to select the best possible guitar then the neck’s wood shouldn’t be ignored.
Though it may not be as critical tonally as the body and bridge of the guitar and may not be as critical for playability as the fretboard material is, it is a crucial component for the structure of the guitar.
This is particularly the case for steel string acoustics where the tension of the strings can put a lot of pressure on the neck if the wrong materials are used.
Choosing the Best Wood
The neck has a few major functions.
First off, the neck supports the strings and holds everything together.
So, for obvious reasons, the wood for the neck needs to be strong.
Secondly, the neck houses the fretboard which is what the guitarist will be most focused on whilst playing and is the most important aspect for playability of the guitar.
Another factor for playability is the size of the neck. This can make a big difference to your playing. There are two ways to think about the size of the neck. Firstly the width of the neck (which determines the width of the fretboard) and secondly, the shape of the back of the neck, which can be a shallower or more deeply curved oval.
Some people prefer a smaller neck or a more narrow neck especially those with smaller hands.
On the other hand a wider neck is more suitable for finger picking – and for those with bigger hands and thicker fingers.
Standard width for a steel string acoustic is around 1 and 3/4 inches (44mm), but 1 and 11/16 inches (43mm) is becoming quite popular these days too. Classical nylon string guitars are usually 2 inches thick (52mm).
Some steel strings can be as wide as 1 and 7/8 inches (47mm) and are usually used for finger style.
Finally, the neck plays a supporting role in the tonality of the guitar. It doesn’t really influence the sound of the guitar directly but it can support it by not getting in the way!
What I mean by this is that the neck should absorb as little energy from the vibrating of the strings as possible. This allows the most energy possible to be transferred down the strings through the bridge and into the soundboard.
So finally, the wood for the neck also needs to be hard and dense. If the wood is too soft or flexible it will absorb a lot of energy from the strings which could otherwise be driven into the soundboard.
The Best Wood Choices
So which woods satisfy all of the above requirements?
It’s potentially a bit of a tricky balance finding wood that’s strong, hard and dense but easy to carve.
Mahogany is the most common wood used for building necks for acoustic guitars. It is strong, dense but light and easy to carve. Voila!
Of course, when I say Mahogany it’s not quite that simple as there a number of different species of Mahogany and different woods that are often referred to as Mahogany that may not be. Check this article out if you want to learn more about that.
The two main types of Mahogany used for acoustic guitar necks are American Mahogany and African Mahogany (a.k.a. Khaya).
Maple is often used for electric guitars but not usually on acoustics as it is heavier than Mahogany (though there are a couple of acoustics I’ve seen using maple for the neck).
Nylon stringed acoustics are often made from Cedar. Mahogany is usually harder, stiffer and stronger than Cedar but the relatively lower tension that nylon strings produce means that a nylon string guitar doesn’t require as much strength.
Steel string acoustics usually also have a truss rod (a steel rod) running through their necks. This adds additional strength against the tension of the strings.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading and I hope that you found the information you were looking for.
Do you have any idea of the wood in the neck of your guitar? If so have you played acoustics that use something other than Mahogany? And what’s your opinion on them. Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.
Any other comments or questions also very welcome.
To learn more about the woods and other materials use for the acoustic guitar check out my post at the link below.